The Two Faces Of Tuface By Reuben Abati
Tuace’s decision to lead a protest to register the dissatisfaction of Nigerians with the performance of the incumbent administration and to reiterate the value of government’s responsibility to the people was his finest moment as a citizen and artiste. But it is also now, with his Jammeh-like volte-face, his worst moment. His transformation into a champion of democratic values and voice of the masses brought him added stardom and value. His retreat has turned him into a revolutionary manqué. He deserves our understanding and sympathy.
When on 24th January Tuface (Innocent Dibia) announced that he was going to lead, under the umbrella of the Tuface Foundation, a mass protest against the economic policies of the Buhari government, he immediately attracted public interest. A multiple award-winning musician, a naturally talented stage performer and author of at least two evergreen songs: “My African Queen” and “If Love is a Crime”, TuBaba, as he is also known, sounded like he was moving from art to politics, and seemed ready to answer to the true calling of the artist as the conscience of the people.
Artists and creative persons have always led protests and lent their voices to progressive causes. That much is the case in the United States at the moment, where artistes have raised their voices and joined protests to remind the “insurgent in the White House” that America is a land of freedom, democracy and justice and not bigotry and tyranny. Here at home, Fela, and his cousin, the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and others as well, have shown the power of creativity and stardom as a veritable vehicle for social change and justice. Artists and their art, and their movement from the stage, or the printed page, to the public arena of action have always saved humanity, by humanizing man. This has been the case from Sophocles, all through time and history to Olanrewaju Adepoju, Beyonce and Kanye West.
But activism comes with a price. Tuface obviously didn’t bargain for that. He received enormous support. His announcement of the February 5, later February 6 protest energized the angry, frustrated Nigerian base, and drew our unrelenting “children of anger” back into an overdrive on social media. The international community also became interested, waiting to see the effect of a protest driven by star-power in Nigeria. It was coincidentally a season of protests across the world: in the Gambia, there had been protests against Yahya Jammeh with a positive outcome, in the US, the UK and elsewhere, Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries and his misogyny led to protests on both counts, and in the case of the former, a Federal judge has given a ruling that has resulted in the suspension of the ban. In Cameroon, concerned citizens are protesting over discrimination against English-speaking Cameroonians. In Romania, a sea of protesting citizens has just had its way. There is all around the world, right now, a resurgence and affirmation of people power, be it Brexit or left-wing activism in Europe. Individuals and groups lead such moments in history- what makes them different is the fire in their bellies and their readiness to command the revolution, at great personal risk.